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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

The well-dressed actuary

I ADMIT TO STRUGGLING TO FIND A TOPIC FOR THIS MONTH’Seditorial and had settled on the usual Christmaswishes and seasonal cheer until a colleague at ameeting I attended inspired me with an interestingalternative subject.The individual in question told me about oneactuary who apparently rotates his underwear toensure that each pair is washed an equal number oftimes to the others and placed at the front of thedrawer when it is due to be worn. The logic is that thisbehaviour should ensure a speedy dressing process andcut down on shopping time as all pairs should needreplacing at the same time. To my surprise mycolleague in the same meeting, another actuary, askedwhy this was unusual!Now, the fact that there are at least two actuaries outthere who consider this to be normal behaviourintrigues me. I understand that ‘normal’ behaviour issubjective and we all know what our parents saidabout ‘other folk’. However, in my view rotating pantscannot be considered ‘normal’ and is surely not usualpractice for most consenting adults.I also know of one actuary who has applied the limitsof infinity to form the conclusion that we will one dayhave speed cameras in every available space along theroad. I actually think that this is quite reasonable. Thelogic behind the argument is as follows. In the UK, aspeed camera is placed in an accident black-spot, thisbeing a place where more accidents have taken placethan other areas. By placing a speed camera in thisspot, the number of accidents is reduced and soanother area becomes the accident black-spot. Accordingto the law of speed cameras, a further camera isplaced in this black-spot which reduces the number ofaccidents and causes a third area to need a camera.Limit to infinity and we have a road full of speed cameras. To clarify, practicalities and issue of cost donot play in this argument.My husband, another actuary, cannot eat at a restaurantor stay in a hotel without working out the presentvalue of the profits of the business, and whether efficiencycould be improved via certain changes to staffmotivation and processes. Maybe this is a sign of thestate of conversation in our marriage, but I like tothink that it is just his quirky, actuarial way of entertaininghimself and clocking up enough CPD.Attending a Christmas concert sponsored by a largefirm where many hundreds of ex-employees, nowretired, all gathered in the same room, one actuary Iknow even went as far as to comment that if the firmgot the bill of artists slightly right (or wrong) thenthere was a significant opportunity for the firm inquestion to reduce its pensions deficit. Needless to say,Girls Aloud were not on the programme that evening.All of these are examples of individuals applyingtheir actuarial and consultancy techniques to aspectsof life which you could argue do not need suchscrutiny. After all, our down time is precious and weshould not be thinking about work.Which brings me on to cause and effect. Do wethink like this because we are actuaries, or are we actuariesbecause some of us may think in this slightlyobsessive-compulsive way? Over Christmas, if any ofour children starts asking about the logistics of Santamanaging to visit all the children in the world andwhere he obtains funds to carry out this exercise, theyclearly need a set of actuarial study notes under thetree on Christmas Day. If they ask about profits thenaccountancy may be a better option.I would also be interested to hear whether anyonehas made any savings by the rotation of pants.